In the recently released science fiction thriller will”Gravity” starring Sandra Bullock, future astronauts aboard a space shuttle are forced to attempt to reach the Chinese space station Tiangong 3.
The Chinese have been taking steps toward a large orbital space station, to be called Tiangong 3, since they launched their first space laboratory Tiangong 1, in 2011.
Tiangong 2, a more advanced space laboratory, is expected to be launched in 2016. And finally, the third step will be Tiangong 3, which will be the world’s third large space station after MIR and ISS. Tiangong 3 will be assemble beginning in 2020, with full operations expected in 2022.
The large orbital station will have a Core Cabin Module (CCM), two Laboratory Cabin Modules (LCM 1 & 2), a crewed vessel called Shenzhou and a cargo vessel Tianzhou. The space station is expected to have a lifetime of 10 years, from 2022 to 2032, weigh 130,000 tons (60,000 kg) and provide long-term habitation for astronauts and scientists of at least 40 days.
As the useful life of the ISS comes to an end in the mid-2020’s , the United States and other Western nations are expected to begin cooperating with China on its manned space station project and China has already expressed an interest in having other nations participate in its space station program.
In 2013, a rocket carried the first module of the space station into orbit the size of a train car. The Chinese Space Flight Program has cost close to $7 billion thus far and estimates of full deployment of the space station could double that number.
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